Under Cal Rules of Prof Cond 1-400(F), attorneys must keep a copy or recording of any communication made by electronic media for two years.
Your law firm website counts as a communication for purposes of this rule. See ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility Formal Opinion 10-457 (any website with biographical information about lawyers or information on law firm constitutes a “communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services”).
This means that you should keep a copy of every page of your website for two years. Even if you decide to shut down your website altogether, make sure to make and retain copies of each webpage.
Keeping copies of your website communications is relatively easy compared to the ephemeral world of social media postings. But you also have to save social media communications.
In its formal opinion 2012-186 (PDF), the State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct applied Rule 1-400(F) to social media websites and stated that
If Attorney discovers that a social media website does not archive postings automatically, then Attorney will need to employ a manual method of preservation, such as printing or saving a copy of the screen.
The Committee gave as an example the statement on social media by an attorney that he or she “Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends and check out my website.” This language qualifies as a “communication” for the purposes of Rule 1-400 “because the words `tell your friends to check out my website,’ in this context, convey a message or offer ‘concerning the availability for professional employment.'” The Committee found that this language would be subject to the preservation requirement in Rule 1-400(F).
Think you already may have messed up when it comes to this record-keeping rule? The Lawyerist blog says that California provides “the chance to rectify any failure to retain copies of an earlier version of your website by printing an archived copy with the Internet Wayback Machine.”
For more on your duties when it comes to Internet advertising, check out CEB’s Internet Law and Practice in California §§17.10B-17.10A.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- Advertising Yourself Ethically
- Using Social Media? Beware of Ethical Pitfalls (Part 1)
- Before You Get a Website, Get a Development Agreement
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